What is a Hacker? A hacker is anyone that gains access to a computer system without authorisation or anyone that accesses a computer system in a way it is not meant to be accessed.
The Types of Hacker and why they hack Hackers are referred to by the colour hat they wear, this a reference back to old westerns when the good guy would wear a white Stetson and bad guy wears a black one. In general we refer to the main 3 colours Black, Grey & White hats.
Black Hats – The most notable Black hats tend to be groups of Hackers rather than individuals Although this isn’t always the case. Some notable examples are Lizard Squad, Lulzsec, Luzcomputer club, Legion of Doom & Anonymous. You may have heard of some of these, For more information you can find a Wikipedia article about them here
Examples of Black hat hackers:
Anonymous (2003-now) Anonymous is a de-centralised organisation that has very little hierarchy, very few members know who any other members are for security and they work together through the internet to carry out various attacks. Usually they carry out attacks for political reasons such as, equality, fighting hate crimes, fighting terrorism recruitment and communication, support freedom of speech and net neutrality. However, whilst some of the attacks may be considered morally ok by some, this doesn’t make them legal. Sometimes the target of attacks have been government bodies or companies, in 2011 they attacked the district of Orlando Florida’s chamber of commerce.
Julian Assange/ WikiLeaks (2006-2010) – Known by his hacker alias of “Mendax” in the 90’s, hacked a number of governments and corporations to leak top classified information online for the world to see. Assange defended this by claiming it was the peoples right to know what was really going on. He currently stays in the Ecuadorian embassy in London under political asylum to avoid the numerous world wide arrest warrants.
Lulzsec (2011) – A group of young hackers who wanted to take on the world and show the world what they could do. They attacked Sony PSN, Fox news, posted fake news stories on media websites, the NHS (Although they didn’t act maliciously, they informed the NHS of the exploit and how to patch it), The CIA website and the US Senate. (which were ultimately their downfall). Their hacking spree only lasted about 6 months and saw several of them convicted.
Examples of Grey Hats:
2015 – A group of grey hats, ironically called the White team, releases a piece of malware that closes security holes in several models of Linux routers.
2017 – A grey hat makes over 150,000 printers print a message to their owners about the dangers of leaving your printer exposed online and instructions on how to patch them, to stop attacks.
2018 – A Russian Grey hat hacker know by the Alias “Alexey” hacks into 100k Routers and patches them without consent to stop other people hacking into them and leaves a text file note in the router explaining what he had done.
It’s not all doom and gloom! Whilst there are black hat hackers out there most governments have started bringing in severe punishments for cybercrimes in recent years as the cybercrime industry has grown rapidly with the explosion of the internet and smart technology. Sentences range from 2-10 years (or a life sentence for crimes that endanger human life i.e hacking into traffic light system and setting all lights to green), fines of varying values depending on if the crime carried out had any financial implication Victim, in some cases cybercrimes can even be classed as an act of Terrorism and as such dealt with by Anti-Terror laws.
Not all Black hat Hackers are bad people: A lot of black hat hackers that get caught, can be turned and persuaded to work for white hat companies or work for / train hackers for government organisations and the military, Others for example: Mustafa Al-Bassam (TFlow) was a core member of “LulzSec” went on to study, work and even teach in the IT security industry.
What’s the best way to fend off hackers? The best way to fend off a hacker is to have all the latest updates and patches installed, for all your devices, this means computers, phones, printers & networking equipment and with the rise of smart tech this now also includes your light bulbs, TV , home assistant of choice and any other “Smart” devices in your home. Yes, installing updates takes time and can be annoying and boring but it is an essential step in protecting your data from outside attackers.